I’m at my friend’s house, buying a 9MM pistol when my friend very excitedly produces his phone and shows me a website where you can, like, buy, NBA basketball highlights.
“I own this now,” he says, just before showing a very forgettable Carmelo Anthony highlight (a baseline jumper) from a game that took place earlier this year.
“So like, whenever ESPN or whomever wants to use that highlight, they have to, like, license it from you?” I asked. My friend works in a context that is not at all like or even adjacent-to the media-licensing business. While we talk about NFT’s we’re doing that thing that people do with guns where you drop the magazine out and open up the action a little bit and just maniacally re-check that the chamber is empty, before turning it over and over in your hands, before like fake-pointing it at a wall.
“Oh no,” he explains. “It’s not proprietary.”
“Yeah, I bought this for like nine-bucks,” he explains. I can tell he’s having a hard time with the fact that I’m having a hard time understanding. “I own this moment.” But not in the sense of owning it so that it can be sold or licensed to anyone who would air the moment to a broader audience. He owns the moment in the sense that it could be traded like a commodity but yet who would actually want a crappy highlight of Carmelo Anthony shooting a baseline jumper which crappy highlight they could easily view on YouTube or NBA.com?
That’s the real question.
This was my introduction to the world of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), which are currently all the rage and will probably be done being All the Rage by the time you actually receive your print copy of this newspaper. The term “non-fungible” speaks to the apparent irreplaceability of a given them. Meaning that the token is wholly unique and therefore somehow non-replaceable, even though Carmelo Anthony himself as well as a hundred other NBA players have shot similar boring baseline jumpers this season.
Per Wikipedia: Access to any copy of the original file, however, is not restricted to the buyer of the NFT. While copies of these digital items are available for anyone to obtain, NFTs are tracked on blockchains to provide the owner with a proof of ownership that is separate from copyright.
In layman’s terms, this means that when you buy an NFT, you’re buying something that anyone else can access at any time, but that they will pat you on the proverbial head for buying, by offering you a “proof of ownership” which basically doesn’t mean anything. People are, of course, doing this in droves.
My friend is probably just nine bucks lighter, which in the grand scheme of things is no big deal, but he got nothing for the nine bucks. Not a used CD, a cheap paperback, a magazine in the airport, a few minutes at the craps table, or a sandwich. He doesn’t even have a mid-shelf cigar to show for the nine-bucks. But in an alternate universe where, all of a sudden, somebody might want to pay him, say, $500 to “own” the crappy Carmelo highlight, he looks like the big winner.
This begs the question: where is this obsession with the online-trading of fake things coming from? Is it born of a year in which people were bivouacked into their homes, bored out of their literal minds, and so hungry for something to do that they resorted to trading little bits of nothing, online?
Or could it be that this is just the natural out-flow of a society so obsessed with online gambling and penny-stock-trading and fake “action,” that it just makes sense for people to be trading little online pieces of nothing?
The world is becoming an increasingly hard place for real men of action, which I would like to actually be, but am not so sure I am.
My office is itself a shrine to real things like football helmets and photographs and cigar boxes. I’m writing on a sheet of paper with a pen, which is apparently a thing that writers used to do. I’m drinking real artisanal Mukwano coffee from a handcrafted coffee mug, emblazoned with my company logo. I’m nibbling at an Oatmeal Cream Pie™ which is a snack item made by another large company. All of these are real things, with value.
Are the old football helmets just reminders of a bygone era when men did more than Tweet?
That said, I hope my friend DOES get $500 for his Carmelo Anthony highlight, because I like my friend. And maybe one day I’ll buy an NFT. But for now I like the gun. It’s tangible. It is a complex piece of engineering that works right if you take care of it. I can use it to provide hours of fun at the range with my boys and, God forbid, if I have to I can use it to protect my home. It’s something I can do with my dad. In that, it connects multiple generations, has a certain timeless elegance, and will last almost forever if properly maintained.
I need more things like this in my life.
Ted Kluck is the author of 25 books and teaches journalism at Union University.
 Because it’s 2021 and you never know, you know? This footnote could turn into an essay itself – on freedom, gun stuff, etc. But we’ll save that for another installment.
 Remember when that meant walking somebody into your kitchen and gesturing at the wall? Sigh.
 This is due, primarily, to how stupid the whole thing is.
 This is one of several 2021 proofs that we may actually be dumber, as people, than we’ve ever been.
 But not really.
 A year and a half (by which I mean two-weeks, just to flatten the curve).
 Listening to ANY sports podcast is an exercise in being besieged by a litany of these dirtbag-laden ads.
 I have a Robinhood account and find it to be one of the more boring things in my life.
 Worn in actual football games in which actual brain-damage was both given and received.